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(Tuesday, September 18, 2012)


          Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. announced today the territory’s success in winning federal grants to improve the delivery of mental health services in the Virgin Islands as well as shore up WAPA’s equipment and worker training.

          Assistant Interior Secretary Anthony Babauta informed the governor of the Maintenance Assistance Program (MAP) award to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, and the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) awards to the Eldra Schulterbrandt Long-Term Care facility.

 “This MAP grant will support WAPA's ongoing efforts to protect the safety of its workers and improve the quality of service provided to all of its customers in the territory. The two grants through the CIP program to the Schulterbrandt facility will help us serve the territory’s most vulnerable and neediest population—those who suffer from mental illness,” de Jongh said.

“On behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands, I thank the United States Department of Interior, and Assistant Secretary Babauta, for recognizing our need for this funding,” de Jongh added.

          The MAP funding of $461,357 is divided between $67,000 for WAPA to conduct staff training, and $394,357 for the utility to purchase new equipment.

          Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge, Jr. said the utility appreciates the DOI grants.  “They have come at such a critical time, as we have been cutting the costs of capital projects tremendously by using our in-house expertise at a greater scale and with more confidence,” said Hodge. The Maintenance Assistance Program monies will purchase equipment to reduce construction costs of small-size water rehabilitation and maintenance projects by more than 30% while increasing WAPA’s ability to respond much quicker to routine tasks and to emergencies, he said. The Training Assistance Program funding will be used to train engineers and maintenance and construction crews in mandatory OSHA standards and equipment inspection and safety procedures. “This is a wonderful opportunity. The long term value to be attributed to these grants will be truly significant to savings at WAPA’s bottom line,” said Hodge.

           The CIP grants involve $734,000 to repair and retrofit the Eldra Schulterbrandt Long-Term Care Facility, along with another $366,000 to repair and retrofit the facility’s annex building.

“We welcome the funding as this will enable the Department of Health to refurbish the original Eldra Schulterbrandt Facility. Once the renovation is completed and together with the additional bed capacity of the new ESF-annex, the Territory will have a combined 61-bed facility available to care for its most vulnerable residents,” according to Acting Health Commissioner Darice S. Plaskett.

Assistant Secretary Babauta said he is extremely pleased to be able to assist the Virgin Islands government in providing the resources needed to improve the delivery of mental health services to its community.

“I commend Governor de Jongh for making the improvement of mental health care a priority, and I am confident the combined awards of over $1 million to repair and rehabilitate the Eldra Schulterbrandt Long Term Care facilities will improve the quality and availability of mental health care in the Virgin Islands,” Babauta said.


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